Jasper National Park
Extending over 11,000 square kilometres, it is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and part of UNESCO's Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. The townsite now known as Jasper was originally named Fitzhugh after an individual who was at the time the Vice-President of the Grand Trunk Railway. It was changed to Jasper in 1913 and the National Park was established as a National Forest in 1907 and gained its National Park status in 1930. The most recent numbers note that Jasper has approximately 4,500 permanent residents.
Jasper is located just over 600km(377 miles) away from Calgary, posing through Banff National Park and along the Icefield Parkway. One of the most beautiful drives in the world, this trip will take approximately 6h15. Alternatively, from Edmonton the route is 365km(227 miles) and takes 3h50. From Vancouver the drive is 8h30 (796 km or 495 miles) and passes through beautiful Mount Robson Provincial Park, named after its resident mountain, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson.
most iconic views
It would be hard to have a post about Jasper National Park without mentioning Spirit Island. Watching the sunrise from the shoreline on a calm morning is one of the most sought after views in the entirety of the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately, as it is in a National Park and has no access road or path to it, there are only two legal ways to obtain this sight. The first is to canoe the 14km from the Malinge Lake parking lot overnight - note that it is illegal to sleep on the boat dock and surrounding areas including the island its self. The second (and most comfortable) is to book a night at the Fisherman’s Bay backcountry camp ground (located 1km away from Spirit Island along Maligne Lake) you can book your campsite here.
Unfortunately this is a trip I have not yet been able to do so thank you to my good friend Michael Matti for allowing me to utilize his images for this post.
beginner - Athabasca Falls
Length: 200 meters (656 feet) roundtrip
Hiking time: 0.5 hour (max)
Trailhead: 30 km (20 min) south of Jasper, junction of Highway 93N and 93A
Habitat: a short paved trail overlooking the waterfall
The Athabasca river falls over hard quartzite and through softer limestone, carving the shorter gorge and a number of potholes. Athabasca falls can be safely viewed and photographed from numerous platforms and hiking trails around the falls. Athabasca Falls has a drop of 80FT (24M) and a width of 60FT (18M) making it a class 5 waterfall. Jasper National Park's Athabasca Falls are not considered the highest or widest waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies, but are considered the most powerful.
moderate - Lower Sunwapta Falls
Length: 2.6km (1.6 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 1 hour
Elevation:87 meters (285 feet)
Trailhead: 54 km (30 min) south of Jasper on Highway 93N
Habitat: A wide and flat paved trail from the parking lot to the falls.
Lower Sunwapta Falls is composed of three major waterfalls. The combination of solitude and open views to the surrounding mountains make this short hike very rewarding.
moderate - Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
Length: 1.4km (0.9mi) roundtrip
Hiking time: 1 hour
Elevation:60 meters (197 feet)
Trailhead: Trailhead • Across from the Icefield Centre at the end of the Toe of the Glacier Road
Habitat: A well defined rocky trail with a section of rock steps to the lookout platform.
After crossing the bridge, you’re walking on glacially smoothedlimestone that was under ice in the 1950s. Follow the trail upwardsthrough one steep section to take in views of the Athabasca Glacier. Stay on designated trails and follow signs. The ice of the Athabasca Glacier is dangerous, and hazards are often hard to spot. In the winter the Toe of the Glacier Road is closed to vehicles and an additional 2km(1.2 miles)roundtrip will be added to the hike, this portion is lined with plaquards that denote the recession of the glacier. The rate is alarming and I would recommend walking the road if time allows.
challenging - Sulphur Skyline
Length: 8 km (5 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 4-6 hours
Elevation: 700 meters (2297ft)
Trailhead: Miette Hot Springs parking lot
Habitat: This trail is very well defined. The first section is a paved walkway and turns into a rock and dirt set of switchbacks to the summit. There are very friendly squirrels at the summit so keep an eye on your backpacks if they have anything tasty inside.
This steep trail is typically one of the first snow-free alpine hikes inthe park. The grade is steep the whole way to the top, but the views of Utopia Mountain, The Fiddle Valley and Ashlar Ridge are well worth the sweat.
Bonus: at the end of the hike you are at the entrance to the Miette Hot Springs.
note: the ratings and estimated hiking times have been provided by Parks Canada, I have personally done all of these hikes. There is no technical sections of these hikes and no additional equipment outside of comfortable hiking shoes or boots, water and snacks should be required.
If you are looking to complete more challenging objectives in Jasper National Park I recommend this book - I have no vested interest in your purchase but personally utilize it for planning my trips.
- Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies covering 11,228 square kilometres (4,335 square miles). And the 2nd largest dark sky preserve (designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) in the world (the largest is also located in Alberta!).
It is very possible to see Northern Lights in Jasper National Park when there is a solar storm. The best time to see them is in August and September.
- The park has 735 lakes that are over 1 hectare in size- the vast majority of which are unnamed.
- Wildlife is abundant in Jasper national park and can be broken down into four categories:
- Small Mammals: Hoary Marmot, Porcupine, Pika, Beaver, and Ground Squirrel.
- Jasper Ungulate (hooved animals) Wildlife: Moose, Wapiti (Elk), Mule Deer & White-Tailed Deer, Woodland Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat and Bison.
- Jasper's Large Carnivore Wildlife: Wolverine, Coyote, Wolf, Mountain Lion, Bobcat, Lynx.
- Large Omnivores in Jasper (meat & plant eaters): Black Bear and Grizzly Bear.
passes and permits
note: all prices in CAD and include all taxes and fees
Adult - $ 9.80
Senior - $ 8.30
Youth - free
Family/Group - $ 19.60
Parks Canada Discovery Pass - these passes are valid for entry to all National Parks in Canada for a full year
Adult - $ 67.70
Senior - $ 57.90
Family/Group - $ 136.40
Columbia Icefield (primitive) - $ 15.70
Honeymoon Lake (primitive) - $ 15.70
Jonas Creek (primitive) - $ 15.70
Mount Kerkeslin (primitive) - $ 15.70
Snaring (primitive) - $ 15.70
Pocahontas (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 21.50
Wabasso (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 21.50
Wabasso (electrical) - $ 32.30
Wapiti (unserviced with washroom building having toilets and showers) - $ 27.40
Wapiti (electrical) - $ 32.30
Whistlers (unserviced with washroom building having toilets and showers) - $ 27.40
Whistlers (walk-in with washroom building having toilets and showers) - $ 22.50
Whistlers (electrical) - $ 32.30
Whistlers (water, sewer, and electrical) - $ 38.20
Wilcox Winter (bivy) - $ 9.80
Wilcox Creek (primitive) - $ 15.70
Group Camping - Per Night
Marmot, with showers, per person) - $ 5.80
Fire permit - $ 8.80
BACKCOUNTRY USE AND CAMPING*
Overnight, per person - $ 9.80
Reservation fee (per reservation)- $ 11.70
Camping and backpacking in Jasper National Park can be booked here. A map of the park is added below.
*all fees indicated are per night unless otherwise noted